Home » Nigerian Youth’s Interest In 2023 Election Is Revolutionary

Nigerian Youth’s Interest In 2023 Election Is Revolutionary

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The enthusiasm of young Nigerians in deciding the next president of the country is not one many saw coming. Many never expected that a day would come when “lazy” Nigerian youth would stage a protest to force the hands of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make it easier for them to register as prospective voters. The frenzied quest by a section of the population who have never voted all their life to do so in 2023 has been dismissed by entrenched politicians as a mere fad rather than the revolution it rightly is. However, the fact remains since the commencement of the fourth Republic in 1999, this is the first INEC will be faced with such a surge for the permanent voter card (PVC).

On Tuesday, chants of “INEC, give us more machines,” “PVC is our right,” “INEC has been joking with us, the registration is slow” rented the air in Enugu as protesters in their thousands marched from Okpara Square to the state office of the INEC, where they demanded the deployment of more machines to allow people to register and have their voter cards. They decried a situation where only two devices are meant to serve each local government area. One of the protesters, Ezeaputa Ike, told newsmen that “it is unfair that the INEC is frustrating the efforts of young Nigerians who had woken up and are willing to participate in the political process to change the bad governance in the country.” Indeed, Nigerian youth have woken up. Before now, INEC was overwhelmed by the thousands of youths who trooped out for the CVR in Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, and at the Old Parade Ground in Garki, Abuja.

Mobilization and sensitization of the populace to participate in the continuous voter registration (CVR) are ordinarily what millions of Naira is budgeted for, but here are Nigerians setting aside their daily runs to spend all day in long queues at INEC offices awaiting their turns to be registered. The electoral commission has been caught napping, yet this ill-preparedness is not deterring would-be voters who hitherto are lethargic and apathetic. What happened? They’ve seen their country on the precipice and want to pull it back from such a precarious position. The youth have now come to terms with the eternal words of Philosopher Charles de Gaulle, “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

According to Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, “As of 2019, we had 84 million registered voters, 51 percent of that are youth. Now we have started new registration, and from the figures, we have the youth between 18 and 39 years with the highest percentage”. This growing involvement of the youth in the electoral process is driven by their resolve to take back their country – a slogan underpinning the “Youths Vote Count Mega Concert” powered by top celebrities and artistes with a large following.

This mobilization drive is being supported by groups and organizations who are providing free transportation to and fro the registration centres, offering their buildings, including residences and religious houses and business premises for INEC to use as registration centres. The other day, a medical doctor provided free consultation to all patients in his clinic who have their permanent voter cards. Even Mr. P of PSquare fame said he would only admit to his home and office those who have their PVCs. All of these contributions and involvements cannot be for a continuation of the status quo, the momentum is rather against the status quo. This much was noted by the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, when he said, “The future of our politics is changing. If you have been watching the level of disenchantment with the existing political parties. I’m sure in all our homes, we have people who call themselves ‘Obidients.’ Ask them which party you belong to, and they say ‘Obidient’; they don’t want us!”

While supporters of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, call themselves the ‘Obidient’ movement, the “us” Obaseki mentioned read the APC and the PDP, which are widely perceived as two sides of a coin. There is no doubt that the disillusionment caused by the outcomes of the heavily dollarized primaries of both top parties has further fed the quest by Nigerians to use their votes to ensure that the most important job in the land does not go to the highest bidder. The Edo State governor was honest enough to admit what the political elite would have none of, even if we disagree with his comment that “the future of our politics is changing.” This comment aligns with the assertion by a former governor of Niger State that the totem candidate eliciting this wild interest in the political process only stands a chance in 2027 or 2031, not 2023. Those with such thinking still don’t see the extent young Nigerians are willing to go with the presidential candidate whose personality, lifestyle, and messaging resonate with them.

It’s wrong to say the future of politics is changing; the way we see it, politics in Nigeria has changed already! With the general election still seven months away, this change will soon be obvious even to naysayers. The youths have moved to counter the claims by agents of entrenched politicians that their preferred candidate lacks political structures and that popularity on social media does not tantamount to popularity with the electorate. That Nigerians are using their resources to set up campaign offices, stage nationwide rallies, produce paraphernalia, songs, and hold physical meetings for their preferred candidate without collecting a dime is nothing short of revolutionary. To this extent, these patriotic Nigerians have ignited what can overrun vote-buying and the deleterious practice of moneybags bankrolling campaign activities of their candidates so that if elected, they can be allowed to pillage the public purse.

The political class had better smell the coffee and understand that it’s no longer business as usual. Nigerian youth are hell-bent on reclaiming their country. They have every reason to, with the tottering of the country towards a failed state. The future of the youth emblematized by the country has indeed been taken away by those who have brought the country to its knees. How does one explain that activities in the country’s public universities have been crippled for five months over poor funding? In contrast, not much has been heard after a public official was arrested for stealing over N80bn?

The hundred million Nigerians living below the poverty line deserve to reclaim their country, not to talk about the millions of terror victims and other worst forms of insecurity that have plagued the country. Since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have failed in pulling Nigeria from the doldrums, the youth who have higher stakes in the country have every reason to seek involvement in the process that produces the next President. Naija News advises them to also be interested in electing the next crop of National Assembly members, as well as governors of the 36 states. This is because a righteous president surrounded by corrupt and incompetent political office holders can only do so much.

We also noticed that this excitement does not cut across the country. This should not be because when the country is fixed, everyone gets better for it. It is in the enlightened self-interest of all Nigerians not to allow narrow considerations to dampen the consciousness that a new Nigeria is possible when the people are allowed to vote and vote wisely. Those seeking to participate in the CVR must bear in mind that that is only the first leg of it. They must show the same enthusiasm towards collecting their PVCs and, most importantly, be ready to come out and vote on Election Day. We again call on INEC to seize the moment and do right by Nigerians. No eligible voter must be disenfranchised. The electoral body must firm up its logistics to ensure that new registrants get their voter cards no later than January 2023 in time for the elections due the next month. May the day never come when Nigerian youths who believe they have a country that only needs to be reclaimed are disillusioned by disenfranchisement or rigged polls into realizing that they don’t have a country after all.

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